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The Energy Scene in India

Robert Rapier, The Oil Drum
As I traveled through India on a recent business trip, the topic of energy was constantly on my mind (as it is every time I travel). I found out some interesting things about jatropha, toured a sugarcane ethanol plant, found a wind farm in the middle of nowhere, and encountered a native ethanol skeptic. Here are my impressions.

… Conclusions

India was an eye-opening experience for me. I managed not to get sick while I was there, and I credit my host Kapil for his constant advice on what I should and shouldn’t eat and drink. (I don’t recommend the buffalo milk, by the way). The contrasts were amazing. Outside a cluster of $400/night hotels was the worst poverty I have ever seen. I once saw a guy pulling a hand cart and talking on a cell phone. Houses in the slums had satellite dishes on top of them. A number of times we walked down hallways of buildings that looked to be 100 years old and decrepit, and then stepped into one of the most modern offices you have ever seen.

One of the things this trip has done for me is to highlight the importance of efforts to transition to a more sustainable lifestyle and avoid the kind of collapse that is often discussed in relation to Peak Oil. I think if more people understood just how far society could fall – and I saw that in the slums of India – we could get serious about our energy situation in a big hurry.
(9 April 2008)
Robert Rapier is a regular contributor to The Oil Drum.

Renewable Energy Not Always Sustainable

Gustavo González, Tierramerica
Latin America obtains more than 20 percent of its energy from ostensibly renewable sources. But much of it comes from hydroelectric dams, which can harm ecosystems.

SANTIAGO – The proportion of 10 percent renewable sources for supplying energy, set as a global goal for 2010, is already a reality in Latin America, but that has been achieved mostly through big hydroelectric dams, which environmentalists argue are not sustainable.

When the region assumed that goal in 2002, it used nearly 26 percent renewable sources, but 15 percent was hydroelectric, according to figures from the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), a regional agency of the United Nations.

Renewable does not mean sustainable, say activists and experts who want to see fewer gigantic dams and more regulation of the use of firewood (source of 5.8 percent of energy used in the region in 2002), and incentives for non-conventional sources.

They point to Costa Rica, where 50 percent of the energy matrix is supplied by geothermal energy, sugarcane waste, biomass and other renewable sources.

Gustavo González is an IPS correspondent. With reporting by Patricia Grogg in Cuba and Mario Osava in Brazil.
(9 April 2008)

Iceland Has Power to Burn

Daniel Gross, Newsweek
The tiny island nation can teach the United States valuable lessons about energy policy.

Iceland’s economy, which until recently relied largely on fishing, has diversified in recent years, with rapid growth in tourism, manufacturing and financial services. And like the Blue Lagoon, much of the growth has been a happy byproduct of Iceland’s decades-long strategy of tapping sources of renewable energy. Mindful of climate change and the need to limit emissions, many U.S. states have set goals of obtaining 10 or 15 percent of their energy from renewables at some point in the distant future, and the European Union has pledged to reach 20 percent by 2020. But Iceland is already at about 80 percent. All electricity on the island is generated through geothermal or hydroelectric sources-low-emissions sources that don’t use fossil fuels. Most homes are heated by water pumped from geothermal hot spots. “We are blessed with a lot of clean and renewable energy,” Prime Minster Geir H. Haarde told NEWSWEEK. “The only uses of fossil fuels in Iceland are people using cars and the fishing fleet.” And increasingly, Iceland, whose most prominent exports have been haddock and Björk, is devising ways to export what has been a stranded resource.

Iceland is a small island with a tiny, ethnically homogenous population: only 300,000, with more than half living in the capital, Reykjavik. It lacks coal reserves, and is endowed with massive glaciers, which produce huge volumes of water that can be harnessed to generate electricity. It also happens to sit atop a rift in the earth’s crust that keeps significant reservoirs of heat bubbling near the surface. To a large degree, it is the polar opposite of the United States. Yet we-and other developed nations-can learn some valuable lessons from Iceland about what happens when a society commits to the systematic development of renewable energy.
(14 April 2008)

Renewable Energy Jobs Soar in Germany

Jane Burgermeister, RenewableEnergyWorld
Renewable energy jobs in Germany shot up to 249,300 in 2007, almost double the 160,500 green jobs in Germany in 2004.

According to revised government figures, as many as 400,000 people could be employed in the renewable energy industry in Germany by 2020. This is 100,000 more jobs than a previous study had predicted due to the boost that the country’s economy and exports received as a result of massive investment in the renewable sector.
(8 April 2008)